The Phare programme is one of the three pre-accession instruments financed by the European Union to assist the applicant countries of Central and Eastern Europe in their preparations for joining the European Union.
Originally created in 1989 as the Poland and Hungary: Assistance for Restructuring their Economies (PHARE) programme, Phare has expanded from Poland and Hungary to currently cover ten countries. It assisted eight of the ten 2004 accession Member States: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia, as well as those countries that acceded in 2007 (Bulgaria and Romania), in a period of massive economic restructuring and political change. Phare means lighthouse in French.
Until 2000 the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina) were also beneficiaries of Phare. However, as of 2001 the CARDS programme (Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stability in the Balkans) has provided financial assistance to these countries.
Following the 1993 Copenhagen Council's invitation to Central and Eastern European countries to apply for membership, PHARE support was reoriented to this aim, including a marked expansion of support for infrastructure investment. PHARE's total pre-accession focus was put in place in 1997, in response to the Luxembourg Council’s launching of the enlargement process. Phare funds focused entirely on the pre-accession priorities highlighted in the Road Maps and the Accession Partnerships which established the overall priorities the country had to address to prepare for accession and the resources available to help them do so. The National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis was the candidate country's timetable for preparing for accession. It estimated the timing and cost of the steps needed to prepare the country for membership and the implications for staff and financial resources.